Study focusing on women and health insurance in California finds the affluent and educated are the most likely to have coverage

If you’re a woman living in California, you’re most likely to have health insurance coverage if you’re married, white, late-middle aged, college-educated, upper-income and have no children. That’s according to a new study released this month by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, which tracked coverage rates of California women by age, race/ethnicity, family income, family structure and education. The study found that 21% of non-elderly (18-64) women in California were uninsured during all or part of 2007. That comes out to nearly 2.5 million women. And most of these women were younger, poor and minority.

What’s also startling is how the amount of education a woman receives often determines whether she is uninsured or not. According to the UCLA study, women who had not graduated from high school were nearly four times more likely to be uninsured than women with college degrees. Women with less than a college degree were more likely to wind up in jobs without employer-based coverage.

Women, for the most part, are still the primary caretakers of their families. Dealing with unique healthcare needs, women tend to pay the highest healthcare costs. It’s simply unconscionable and unfair that women must be affluent and educated to deserve something so basic as access to treatment for illness. And it’s immoral to have a healthcare system in California that is basically segregated on racial and class lines.

With the opportunity of obtaining a college degree becoming increasingly out of reach for many, thousands of young Californians could find themselves without coverage. Battered by the recession, California is not generating the number of jobs necessary to keep up with population growth, nor is the state creating enough high-paying jobs that would offer good health benefits.

But why must anyone have a high-paying job or a college degree just to get guaranteed, affordable health coverage? By sticking with an employer-based healthcare system that is overpriced, inefficient and downright cruel, what we are saying is that some people in our society are better than others, and that those lucky enough to belong to a certain group are the most deserving to live and live well. That’s not supposed to be the American ideal.

A healthcare system that relies on insurance companies whose primary concern is making money rather than providing care is exactly the kind of arrangement that encourages discrimination and gouging. All businesses are mandated to turn a profit. However, that goal is incompatible with the idea of healthcare, which is a public good – not a commodity.

A society is judged by how it treats the least of its citizens. And I have to say, that right now, ours isn’t looking too good. But we can make California a more humane place for its citizens. We can solve the inequities in our healthcare system by eliminating the insurance middlemen and putting healthcare in the hands of the people and their healthcare providers. Let’s help California OneCare work to get SB 810 – a universal, single-payer healthcare plan – passed into law.